Friday, 14 August 2015

The Mystery of the Crown of Thorns by a Passionist Father part 26.



1. The monarchs of the earth, to enhance their dignity surround it with external emblems of power. They live in magnificent palaces; they sit on high thrones of gold; they clothe themselves in purple, they wear upon their heads golden diadems glistening with precious stones, and wield rich scepters in their hands. We have seen that our divine Lord is a prisoner in the hall of Pilate, where he is made to sit upon a hard stone for his throne, as a sham king: a crown of thorns has been placed upon his adorable head, and a reed of derision in his hands. Lastly, a cast off, old and ragged military cloak is thrown with contempt over his bleeding shoulders. These are the ironical insignia of royalty, which his enemies force upon our Lord to insult and degrade him before the people. But the wisdom and power of God turns to the honor and glory of Jesus all the insults and humiliations heaped upon him by wicked men. Had our blessed Lord received from their hands a new purple mantle, adorned with golden lace, and glittering with jewels, this would have made him appear like other kings of the earth, whose scarlet cloaks are often dyed in the blood of wars, oppression, and persecution. Having, however, been covered with an old cloak, cast off by other men, and crimsoned only in his own blood; this demonstrates that Jesus Christ is the only true King, who establishes and propagates his kingdom and saves his subjects by his own sufferings and personal humiliations, and redeems them with his life's blood. This scarlet cloak is a prophecy which announces him as the adored king of millions of glorious Martyrs, who will with truly heroic fortitude, endure all manner of tortures, and gladly shed the last drop of their heart's blood in his holy service, and for his dear sake. These are the noble soldiers of Jesus who fight for the defence and extension of his kingdom, and are always victorious and triumphant with him, not by shedding the blood of his enemies and of their own persecutors; but by sacrificing their own lives on the altar of his faith and love. "Venit Jesus non ut pugnet vivus, sed ut triumphet occisus." (St. Fulgentius serm. 3 de Epiph)

This scarlet cloak indicates another profound mystery of the kingdom of Jesus Christ. The Jewish nation had hitherto been selected by God as the center of his holy Religion. Jesus our Lord was born from, and among the Jews; he lived with them, preached to them his new covenant of grace, wrought miracles for their conversion. But they have refused to believe in his mission, they have rejected with scorn his heavenly doctrines, and finally, they have officially and publicly repudiated him before the Roman Governor, postponed him to Barabbas, and have with diabolical fury insisted that he should be put to death upon a cross. Unhappily for them, their impious request is now accomplished. The Jews have given up the person of our Lord, their true Messias, into the hands of the Roman soldiers. These have scourged him. Behold, now they strip him of that tunic which he originally received from his people. This mystic and miraculous tunic is the figure of the old covenant, which God made with their forefathers. Jesus being stripped of it through the hatred and malice of the Jews, they are now deprived of the rights and privileges of their holy religion, which is taken away from them at the same moment that our Lord is stripped of his garments. But, because the religion of God can never cease to exist among men, hence, it is immediately transferred from the Jews to the Gentiles with the scarlet cloak, which the latter put on the sacred shoulders of our Redeemer. This beautiful explanation is given by St. Jerome, who is recognized by the church as the best interpreter of the holy Scriptures. The following are his words. "Jesus is mystically stripped of his vestments, the Jews; and he is clothed with a purple mantle which is the church among the Gentiles." (St. Jerome. Com. in, Chap. 27 S. Matt) In fact St. Matthew says that: The soldiers of the Governor, taking Jesus into the hall, gathered together unto him the whole band, and stripping him, they put a scarlet cloak about him. (Mt. 27:27) These words so simple in their historical signification, express most admirably the transition of the true Religion of God from the Jews to the Gentiles. Observe how completely our Lord, the Teacher of all moral doctrines, and religious truths, is in the hands of the Gentiles. At his crowning of thorns, which must be considered his solemn installment as Head of the Church, our Lord is in the hall of the Roman Governor. Consequently in this particular circumstance, he is out of the power and jurisdiction of the Jews, as he foretold in these words: they, the Jews, shall deliver him to the Gentiles. (Mk. 10:33) According to the law of nations he is even outside of their territorial possessions, not only because the Jews are now under the civil dominion of the Romans, but because he is actually in the house of the representative of the Roman Emperor. It is in this Roman palace that our Lord is stripped of all the insignia of the ancient covenant made by God with the Jewish nation. It is in this Roman hall that he receives his crown, his scepter, his royal purple. It is in the Roman hall that all the Gentile nations are gathered in the persons of the Pagan soldiers round about him, to offer him their first homage as to the sovereign Lord and King of Christianity. "The soldiers of the governor, taking Jesus into the hall, gathered together unto him the whole band." The malicious intentions of those Roman soldiers cannot invalidate the decree and design of his divine will. He makes them act in spite of their actual dispositions, as his ministers and instruments, as the holy pope, and eloquent orator, St. Leo I says: (Serm. 3 de Passione.) St. Jerome also remarks that, "As the high Pontiff Caiphas, contrary to his intention, made a prophecy of our Redeemer, when he said that one man should die for the people. (Jn. 11:50) So these cruel Pagan soldiers, in spite of their dispositions, were executing wonderful mysteries of religion and salvation, when they tormented and derided our Savior at his crowning with thorns in the hall of the Roman Governor." (St. Jerome. Com. in Matt. Chap. 27) Holy Bede says the same. "Milites illudendo nobis operantur mysteria." (In Joan 10) And Sedulius more expressly affirms: "Sub regiae imaginis illusione, Magni gerebantur sacramenta mysterii." (Lib. 3. oper. Paschal) Great mysteries were accomplished when the Roman soldiers derided our Lord as a mock King. As St. Genesius became a real Christian and died a martyr by beginning, as a theatrical buffoon, to mimic in the Roman amphitheater the rite of Christian Baptism before the Emperor Diocletian; so these deluded men actually proclaimed Jesus our Lord, the King of the universe by their mock homage. We should also observe, that the scarlet cloak placed on the shoulders of our Lord was an old mantle cast off by the former owner. Behold here, how strikingly correct is every figure of the mysteries accomplished on this memorable occasion. Reflect, that our blessed Lord did not come upon earth to establish altogether a new religion. Christianity is essentially the same religion as that established by God among the Jews. Our Lord said to them: "Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the Prophets. I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill." (Mt. 5:17) He came among the Jews to accomplish all the figures and prophecies, and to perfect all that was imperfect. But what is perfected is not destroyed or abolished. This mysterious fact is well expressed in the old cloak placed over the bleeding shoulders of our blessed Redeemer. Had he founded an entirely new religion, a new mantle should have been given him. But, as he came to purify in his sacred blood the old religion, and to make it perfect by assuming, practicing, and divinizing it in his human nature, he would consent to receive only an old scarlet cloak for his royal purple.

Again, this scarlet cloak had been cast away by the owner as useless. What could more fully express the conduct of the Jews, who paid scrupulous attention to superficial practices of their own invention, and neglected the essential duties of their holy religion? "Woe to you Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites; who pay the tithe of mint, and anise and cumin; and have left alone the weightier things of the law, judgment, and mercy, and faith." (Mt. 23:23) After having cast off as an old garment these weightier things of their law and religion, the Jews now reject the Messias, who is the author of their religion and law. But Jesus takes this rejected garment upon his shoulders, purifies and sanctifies it with his divine blood. Thus, purified and sanctified, this sacred cloak of religion is transferred-from the perfidious Jews to the Gentiles, and thus Christianity is established among them.